Stand-up comedian and VUB Fellow Erhan Demirci organises benefit performances to raise money for victims and their families in Turkey. It makes him proud to see how much solidarity and willingness there is to help. Erhan wants to continue organising annual fundraising concerts to help. He makes it clear to us: humour eases the pain.

1/ From where did you get the idea to organise benefit concerts?

The first reflex you have when you get up on Monday morning and see that your home country has been hit by two massive earthquakes is to help. Thousand lives have been taken away and many children lost their parents. Having done many charity performances as a comedian, I thought it was time to organise an event myself. I wanted to show solidarity and help the people I care about

2/ How do you feel about being able to make a difference? 

I wish I could do more. Like sending 500 containers and building a new school and hospital, but with my capabilities, I tried to set up something that is peculiar to me: a comedy performance. I contacted my colleagues via text and they immediately agreed to participate in the show. The tickets sold quickly, and I am proud of this kind of solidarity and willingness to help people. It makes me happy to see that people care and want to be there when something bad happens.

3/ How is it resonating within the Turkish community in Belgium?

There are many associations that contact me for different actions, including charity dinners where I can help with promotion or just events where I can be present. Even people who don't know me personally come to my door to donate money for good causes. This gives me a sense of pride and gratitude for the community.

4/ Do you expect the attention and sympathy from Western Europe to remain so great? 

Of course I hope it will stay that way. Unfortunately, it is normal that the attention can weaken in time, we have seen that, for example, with the situation in Ukraine. We are in the process of setting up a non-profit organisation and I want to organise an annual benefit concert to also contribute in a sustainable way. It's up to us to make sure it doesn't become overkill and that we can maintain the aid in a beautiful and sustainable way.

5/ How can you find humour in such a humanitarian disaster?

The comedy performances we organise, despite the tragedy that has taken place, help us raise money to help people. It may sound harsh what I am about to say, but life goes on. Even though the pain of the victims and their families will last for years. If we can go to them and give them a smile, even for an hour, then for me it is a success. I use my strongest weapon, my mouth and way of communicating, and that doesn't have to get in the way of helping others. After an hour of laughter, we find that people are recharged and can move forward again. People sometimes ask: 'tragedy and humour, is it possible?' Well, I find that to be the strongest weapon.

Benefit performances overview:

07/03/23 - Ostend

14/03/23 - Beringen

15/03/23 - Antwerp

19/03/23 - Brussels

20/03/23 - Ghent